On Resume: Handling Lack of College Degree


John writes:
I recently got laid off from my job as a senior software engineer because of the economic downturn. I was at my job for 11 years and the job before that I was at for 8 years. I have been reading your web site for hints on how to write a resume.
When I was in college I got a job as a co-op. When it was time to return to school my boss asked me if I would stay at the company instead of going back to school. That was the end of my formal education. The jobs I have had were better than the jobs many with advance degrees have. I was very successful at my jobs. My lack of degree was never an issue.
My question to you is how do suggest I handle my lack of degree on my resume? Any hints would be greatly appreciated.


The Career Doctor responds:
Someone with your level and quality of experience should list education after experience (because your experience will be your better selling point) but you definitely should do so. List it at the bottom of your resume.
Under education list something like this:
[X number of] credit hours toward [name of degree such as Bachelor of Science] in [name of major] [name of university] [city and state of university].
Do you have any intention of finishing the degree? If so mentioning that intention would be helpful. It’s even more helpful if you’re enrolled in a degree program. Also list any kind of training programs you’ve undergone since you’ve been working.
Of course another option is to leave the education heading off your resume but I recommend that only for people with no education at all. Leaving it off would be riskier than listing the incomplete degree. Do not mention education in your cover letter. And make sure you list your accomplishments in a very strong manner so they do indeed outweigh the lack of degree. I have found that most people are not good at showcasing their accomplishments without help so consider hiring a professional resume writer.


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